Parties Promising Free Electricity Will Have to Pay One Way Or Another: RK Singh to News18

As the Narendra Modi government completes nine years, CNN-News18 talks to Union ministers about what they think about the current political climate, the Centre’s plans and the upcoming general elections. In an exclusive chat on Friday, Union Minister for Power and New and Renewable Energy RK Singh shared all that and launched a scathing attack on the opposition, especially Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, for “running the country”, “corruption”, ” . Freebie culture”, and “Vote bank politics”. Edited excerpts:

You are in charge of an important ministry which has a lot of promises to make to champion the story of development. How have you done so far?

We have delivered. This government led by PM Modi has really completely transformed the power sector. It is very different from when we came to power in 2014. When we came to power, the power deficit in India was around 9-10%. Today our peak demand has increased from 1 lakh 35,000 MW in 2014 to 2 lakh 12,000 MW today. But we have installed capacity of 416000 MW. In fact, we have added about 184000 MW capacity, and today we export power to our neighboring countries. Power deficit to power surplus. We have connected the entire country with one grid. We have added around 180 thousand circuit kilometers spread across the country and we have added areas up to Leh Ladakh which span some of the highest passes in the world.

Today we can transfer about 112 thousand MW from one part of the country to another. In 2014, we were able to transfer only about 37 thousand MW. We spent around Rs 2,12,000 crore on distribution companies. We built about 2,912 new substations, upgraded 3,980 sub-stations, added about 8.5 lakh circuit kilometers of HT lines, LT lines and about 750,000 new transformers. The result of all this is that an independent survey conducted in 2015 said that the availability of electricity in rural areas is about 12 and a half hours. Today it is 22 and a half hours. In urban areas it is 23½ hours. As far as the power sector is concerned, we have completely made this difference. We bring ease of doing business.

You have done a lot, RK Singh ji. But we have Rahul Gandhi abroad. As a bureaucrat in the past, now as a leader… the people he is interacting with and what he is communicating there… your thoughts?

These people… I would almost say lousy. Rahul Gandhi does not get any audience here. He has no followers here. He lost his seat and had to go somewhere where the vote bank could win him. After that he abused an entire community, the OBC community and some people filed a case. Now he was convicted through a judicial court, and because of the conviction, he lost his seat as per law. And he goes and says that he was wrongly convicted … He filed an appeal. They should let the law take its course. He says that he was unfairly thrown out of Parliament. It is very shameful.

He misleads people there. He gathers 100-200 people in a hall and gets an audience… I think the number of people who come to listen to him is not more than 100-300 there also, and here also the number will be the same. The thing that I have seen is that you have people in Congress who go abroad to bring down their country. Do you see any other leader of any other country doing this? Are you running your country abroad? No other leader in any other country does this.

These people have a habit of degrading their own country by going to other countries. A country that the whole world is praising for its fast growth rate… They have independent assessment, IMF, World Bank… They all do surveys, and we emerged as the fastest growing economy in the world Are. Everyone is praising us for this. And these people run abroad. it’s embarrassing. They have no pride in their country. Embarrassing. You have someone like Salman Khurshid who goes to Pakistan, goes to a Pakistan military training center, and runs across the country. Very shameful. What kind of people are these?

They are not letting the country down from their point of view, rather they are opening a front against the government and especially against PM Narendra Modi. Now you are also seeing opposition unity against the PM.

You know the facts and I know the facts. These people cannot feed anyone other than becoming the Prime Minister of the Gandhi family. You have become irrelevant. Admit it. The family no longer works. Admit it. They don’t accept it. They find it very difficult to accept this. This fellow lost one seat, ran to contest it in another. I am sure he will lose that seat too. If he does zero development when he goes there, why should they vote for him?

But there are others in the opposition as well. Take Bihar RJD only. He compared the new Parliament, which is built on the Shree Yantra… He compared it to a coffin…

just think. What do you call corrupt and illiterate people? Those who are involved in corruption. On bait, on appointments. They have taken money from poor people for appointments, land from those who do not have money. And they spin around, puffing out their chests. And then they give lectures? Corrupt… do they have heart? shame on them. Aren’t they the same people? You can imagine? You have someone to sign the land, there’s going to be a record and you’ll be caught at some point.

But you and your government are being accused, Rahul Gandhi says that the condition of Dalits in the 1980s is the same condition of Muslims, Sikhs and Adivasis today.

This has been the vote bank of the Congress. This is not a new thing. From the very beginning, the Congress party has tried to make the minority a vote bank. They have used vote bank, did nothing for them but said they can only protect them. This is his philosophy. People have now understood this and hence they did not vote for him.

But now in every election everyone makes the same promise that is free electricity. It was started by Arvind Kejriwal. We saw this in Karnataka. Ashok Gehlot ji is also saying the same. Everyone is saying. This culture of freebies is being led by free electricity.

These people are not worried about the future of the country. This is not free electricity. They have to pay for electricity as coal is not free. The laborers working in the thermal plant have to be paid. Pay for the transmission line. Electricity is not free. One has to pay. If you want that consumers should not pay, then they should pay from their budget.

The problem is that the states which are saying ‘Bijli Mukt’, we have seen the figures. The revenue 20-25% is their own, 75% comes from the taxes collected by the Centre…the revenue received goes to their salaries, pensions, old loans…there is no money left after that. They have to take loans for free things. They are putting pressure on the future generations and we are in a situation where we are taking new loans to repay the old loans. They are pushing us into debt trap. They want to come to office by distributing the budget money.

Along with this, I have arranged that if you want, you can give free electricity. If you do not pay for the electricity, then your electricity will be automatically cut off. We made it automatic and we can’t do anything. Earlier the power of 12-13 distribution companies was cut off and they paid…but the National Thermal Plant from which they are taking power will have to pay, otherwise the power will be cut off. We have made this system so that if they do irresponsible politics, they have to pay or their electricity will be cut off.

Surveys are saying that BJP remains popular, its popularity has increased by 2-3 per cent. The Prime Minister remains popular, but the popularity of the Congress has increased by 10 per cent. Is this worrying for 2024, or is the way clear for your party?

How is the popularity of Congress? It seems to be the seventh wonder of the world… I don’t believe it to be true. If you ask who should become the PM, 99 percent people will say Narendra Modi, 1-2 percent people will say someone else. No one will say Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi or Khargeji. ask them.